A few days ago a New Hampshire married couple, both 59 years old, was injured after a car driven by a 19-year old collided with their motorcycle in Casco. Adam White suffered non life-threatening injuries while his wife, a passenger on his motorcycle –suffered serious injuries and was flown to Central Main Medical Center. The driver of the car that collided with the motorcycle was not operating the vehicle while intoxicated, was not apparently distracted while driving, and was not apparently speeding when she struck the couple.
What apparently happened but which has not yet been concluded is this: the 19-year old driver simply failed to look for motorcyclists and, as such, failed to see the motorcyclist. It could be, on the other hand, that Adam White rode his motorcycle recklessly and put him and his wife at risk. An accident reconstruction is being conducted, and therein may lie the answers to what happened and who is at fault.
But generally speaking, how do these types of collisions happen and who is at fault?
Liability & a Driver’s Failure to Look for Motorcyclists
When a motorist is on the road, he or she owes everyone else on the road a duty of care. When the motorist breaches that duty of care, he or she is liable for the consequences of that breach, including property damage or bodily injury.
One duty is plain and simple: keeping alert and aware of your surroundings. A motorist cannot go into another lane if another vehicle is there. As such, a motorist cannot claim that he or she simply did not see the other vehicle as a defense to liability.
The difference between seeing another vehicle versus seeing a motorcyclist is not in liability but in the ease of being seen. A vehicle is larger and a side mirror and/or mirror for a blind spot will easily reflect the vehicle’s image. But a motorcycle is smaller and narrower and, thus, harder to see in the mirror. But again, that does not mean the driver is not liable.
Liability & a Motorcyclist’s Failure to Ride Responsibly
Compounding the problem of simply being able to see the motorcyclist on the road is the matter of motorcyclists riding recklessly. People complain that motorcyclists speed and careen in between traffic. When they do, it can indeed make it harder for drivers to see and respond appropriately to the motorcyclists.
If the motorcyclist is speeding or unlawfully careening in between cars, the motorcyclist, too, can be held liable.
Shared Liability in New Hampshire Auto Collisions
In situations like this, when the driver fails to see the motorcyclists and the motorcyclist is speeding, then both may be held liable. If one or both suffered injuries or property damage, then compensation is determined by the percentage of fault for each.
New Hampshire follows a modified doctrine of comparative negligence, and this means an injured party can receive compensation for injuries so long as his or her fault does not exceed the fault of the other party (or the combined fault of all defendants if more than one). Compensation, however, is reduced according to the injured party’s fault.